It was noon, and the city that never slept was sleeping. Tall glass buildings surrounded thousands of people running Helter skelter, wearing formal shirts and dresses. They seemed to be awake, but inside they were sleeping. As the day would pass, these people were going to transform into different versions of themselves. Each of them would drink their sorrows with a glass of liquor and truly awaken, only to sleep again the following day. Each of them would search for someone to listen to their woes and would find no one who truly understood their pain. Each of them, running in search of an unattainable goal. Goals that they made in past, in a daze. The city with a cornucopia of clubs, pubs, and bars. Each with their own concepts: signature cocktails and whatnot. In one such bar, on a table reserved for two, Pranjal sat.
A glass half full of beer in his right hand, and his left hand placed casually on the table. The table had a bowl of caesar salad, a plate of peanuts, and a beer tower, half empty. The chair in front of him was vacant, but only for the time being. The occupant of the chair wasn’t there, but a plate of piping hot pasta was waiting for them.
He gulped some more of the bitter liquid and his body relaxed with each gulp he took. He wasn’t a fan of drinking during the day, but today his mind wasn’t in place. It was somewhere darker. He stared at the vacant chair, and when he got bored, closed his eyes. A faint scene flashed in his mind. A not too distant memory. A few years ago he had been in a somewhat similar setting. Except his hand held a cup of espresso, the chair in front wasn’t vacant, and he glowed with joy. It had been a week since their first kiss in the rain. They were on a date.
She looked ravishing in her casual jeans and black tank top, covered with a red checkered shirt. Her hair in a bob cut, with slightly cropped side-swept bangs and a perpetual smile on her face. No matter how she looked to anyone else, to him she was the most beautiful woman in the world. The fact that she actually was exceptionally resplendent only helped his case.
It had been fifteen minutes since they had ordered their food and no one had uttered a single word. They were too busy looking at each other. Their lips curved in vibrant smiles, they were trying to read each other. She finally broke the silence after what seemed like an eternity.
“Aren’t you going to drink that?” she pointed at the cup.
“Um, of course, I will. What about you? Your pasta is getting cold.”
She loved pasta. Some months later, he would learn how to cook it for her. Today, however, he was delighted that they were spending time together.
“You can be so stupid sometimes. You know that right?” he teased her.
“I am stupid only when I want to be stupid, kiddo! There is a lot you don’t know about me.”
“Tell me all of it then.”
“There is a lot, baby. It will take you a lifetime.”
“Will you give it to me then?” he smiled.
“Give you what?”
“A lifetime of yours!”
She blushed a little. He couldn’t be serious, could he? That kiss was a spur of the moment. It didn’t even mean anything! Or did it? Perhaps it was fated to happen. A part of her was glad that it happened the way it did. That part wanted to cherish such a memory forever.
“Please excuse me! I need to go to the little girls’ room,” was all she’d said. She hadn’t replied to his proposal. It was a proposal of sorts.
He sat there for a while until he finally saw her emerge, walking toward their table…
His chain of thoughts was broken as he found himself in the present again. The cup in his hand had disappeared. The beer mug was back.
The pasta was still the same.
She was coming toward him. Except, it was not her. It was not the woman he woke up with in the morning.
The city was the same, the setting was the same, the surroundings were the same.
The drink was different.
The woman was different.
He was different.